Friday, September 28, 2012

Who Doesn't Like Baby Chicks?

To promote that Ben and I have started teaching natural family planning (NFP) classes, we decided to start a blog, put together a page on our young adult website, and blew up social media. We thought we were on top of it, but do you know what almost everyone has asked us for? A business card. And people said paper was dying. In my husband's mind it still is and he wants to "bump" phones together to trade contact information via air waves (or whatever), but I decided to take the "old fashioned" approach!

It's a little quirky, a bit puzzling, but you have to admit ... it's cute. I saw it and thought, "I like it, but I'm guessing that's where it stops." I decided to pass it up for a more floral pattern, but kept coming back to this because honestly it kind of is the perfect fit for NFP.

It has healthy fruit on it. We promote health through the use of NFP.

It's got a baby chick on it. We deal with sex and the creation of new life. Hello, baby chicks are like the international symbol for life.

It's a modern(isn) design. We teach a modern form of NFP.

Thus, my thinking behind our new (coming soon) business cards, which I will from here on out call "class appointment cards" because on the back there's space for just that. Hopefully we get them soon and can start passing them out and filling them out!

P.S. Don't say you don't like them because I just ordered a kazillion. It was only $5 more!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Make the Walls Talk

Some say paying the first mortgage bill makes a house feel like it's truly yours. I don't know about you, but that made me panic about whether or not we had made the right decision financially. For me, hanging up a picture says 'home', especially when it is $9!

I have the print due to my sister's unceasingly amazing eye for catching deals. This was one of her finds during our shopping outing last Saturday. I officially love Old Time Pottery, and now I'm on the hunt for the perfect items to surround it since it's a little small to hold up the whole wall. 

Have any awesome suggestions for me of what would look perfect framing this cheap beauty?

Monday, September 24, 2012

NFP Believes in Soulmates

Sometimes I forget to lead with my heart instead of my mind when it comes to telling people about NFP. I want to preach that it’s 99.5 percent effective at preventing pregnancy and that it tells you all sorts of things about your body beyond you fertility and … look I’m doing it again!

But honestly avoiding the baby bump is not the ultimate reason behind my love for NFP. I love NFP because I now see humanity in a totally different light.

If you couldn’t guess, I’m a Christian (NO WAY, right?), and I’m a pretty ginormous fan of Jesus and His Church. They have both taught me how to respect my body as well as the bodies of others, but never more clearly than when I was learning NFP and researching the reason the Church denounces contraceptives (because, hey, I was on that bandwagon for a while). What I learned literally took my breath away and blew my mind so completely that I’m surprised I still lead with it.

The body is essential to the truths of the Christian faith, but most of the time it gets a bad rap for being “weak flesh”. But it wouldn’t be weak if we knew how amazing it was. Want to know why? Keep reading.

First is that God created us in His image and likeness. For a long time I just thought that meant our souls were like His and not necessarily our bodies. I just didn’t see the body as being as important as the soul. But if bodies aren’t important to God’s overall design, then why did He give them to us? I think it would be pretty cool if we just flew around as spirits without the limitations of bodies. But since we have bodies, there must be a reason.

I also know that the body is essential to understanding Christianity because Christ became man; He took on human flesh. God wouldn’t have done that if the body were somehow lesser than the soul. He could have easily appeared on Earth as a ghost/spirit type of entity, but instead He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man. He became flesh because it would be the destruction of that flesh on the cross that would make His sacrifice so great and absolutely perfect.

Finally I had to come to the realization that the body and the spirit are not two separate things competing in a contest for who is greater. They are indivisible. Christ wasn’t half human and half God when He was walking around Earth. He was fully both because He was God made flesh just like we are souls made flesh. As such respect of the body is paramount. When you can look at another human being or look in the mirror and see a soul made in the image and likeness of God how can you hate that person? How could you not love that person if you love God?

NFP has made me see this as I learn how perfectly my body was made. NFP has more fully cemented my view that my body should be respected by me as well as by my spouse. My husband and I don’t work against it, but with it. I’ve also become more aware of dangers I see so many of my friends putting themselves directly in front of. They don’t view their body as something sacred and beautiful and made by God. Instead they look for ways to feel those things in ways that are disrespectful to their body such as sex for fun instead of sex for true, covenant love. They don’t wait for to have sex with their “soulmate” (means more now that you know that the body and the soul are indivisible, right?) because this world likes to preach that the body is a toy to do with what we please even if that means hurting it. NFP teaches quite the opposite: that we belong to God and we were created to be loved.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Christian Physician’s Perspective: Why I prescribe Natural Family Planning (NFP) instead of Artificial Hormonal Contraception.

My first guest post!

This is from a good friend, Billy, of mine who is truly inspiring. He's a single, young adult man who also happens to be a physician with the Navy. He believes in informed consent and treating the problem, not masking it with a pill. I've been strengthened in my drive to educate people about NFP many times because of his passion for it as a healthy and moral alternative for his patients. Take a few minutes and read this!

I was once asked by another physician, “What’s the real difference, since both are 98% effective, and one requires occasional abstinence while the other does not?” Below is a summary of my opinion as a grounded Christian and as a physician passionate about science.
  1. I believe in the dignity of human life. I believe God is the author of life, that He created us in His image – unique yet complementary as male and female. Taking the pill is a conscious decision we can make as humans, to actively create an environment hostile to the beginning of life. This hostile environment is created before and after fertilization, the latter mechanism is more simply abortion.  Remember that the very word “contraception” in this case means to “go against the beginning of life.”  Contraception is the very opposite of openness to the beginning of life, by obstructing the natural development of a process that is pro-creative in God’s beautiful design.  On the other hand, natural family planning does not create an environment hostile to the beginning of life.  Instead, intercourse remains open to life as God intended. Though natural family planning and hormonal contraception have the same “efficacy” in preventing/postponing a child, the two could not be more different. (A future post will follow regarding the abortive potential of hormonal contraception).
  2. I believe women should be respected, in their entirety. Their entirety includes their fertility and fascinating reproductive system. I will not use a drug to suppress this beautiful design God has created. Since the widespread use of the pill, sexual moral standards have generally declined.  Not much life experience is needed to realize that men often need incentives to adhere to a moral code.  It is evil to ease the transgression of moral code. Some physicians have done so already, allowing some men to grow accustomed to the use of contraception. In doing so, men may forget the sincere reverence due to a woman, reducing her to an instrument of pleasure, and disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium.  He may see no immediate consequences to their actions, yet several have been observed in society since the pill: general lowering of standards for women, a rise in infidelity and prostitution. If you are not aware of these results, take a step away from the Church for a day.  
  3. I am pro-life, and most hormonal contraceptives act against the dignity of life as abortive agents.  Just reference the common Physician’s Desk Reference or UpToDate. Or, consider the history: In 1965, The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a bulletin to redefine "conception" to mean "implantation."As a prestigious society, ACOG redefined life for money. The pill would soon bring in millions, as their new definition removed abortion from most informed-consent discussions with patients. However, the mechanism of contraceptives has not changed with their new definition of life. For nearly all progestin-only contraceptives, ovulation is not consistently suppressed, and “endometrial thinning” is one of the key mechanisms. This then promotes early abortion because the endometrial lining is not suitable to early life. All hormonal contraceptives have the potential to promote an abortion, some more than others. Note that the new emergency contraceptive Ella hits the same progesterone receptors as most current contraceptives, and the package insert states “not indicated in pregnancy due to hazard to fetus.” One may state in reply, “But God has caused many spontaneous abortions as part of a natural process.” I will ask, “What role do you have as the cause of abortion?” Or, consider Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine: “I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life…”
  4. I only prescribe medication for disease or injury. To prescribe medication to alter our natural fertility is to prescribe a poison. A drug can only be considered a medication when treating an actual disease. Fertility is not a disease, but rather quite beautiful. Rather than suppressing fertility, we should work with God’s beautiful design. NFP does just this, not altering or suppressing our body. Instead, NFP asks a woman to work with her body and to know her body better. NFP strives to find any underlying medical problems, and does not consider fertility as one of them.
  5. I believe low-risk life style changes should always be introduced before prescribing any medication, and that the side effects of every medication should be considered. Hormonal contraception increases risk of heart attack and stroke by 50-80% (NEJM). I have witnessed or interviewed three patients with blood clots related to contraception in the last six months.  The physicians that performed a hypercoagulability (blood clot) workup suggested the patient stop taking contraception, as they felt it was likely related in each case.
  6. I believe in informed consent. Many patients are on the pill, not knowing the risks or alternatives. Copied below is a conversation I had with one patient.
“Were you counseled on any alternatives to artificial hormonal contraception, besides any of these pills you’ve been taking?” I asked my patient, after she had tried 3 different options with a variety of side effects. 
“Yes, Implanon – the implant that goes in your arm with a small surgery.”  (Implanon is a progestin – hormonal)
“What about any alternatives to medication, abstinence or natural family planning?”
“No. I was just given the pill.”

Whatever happened to informed consent?!  How can these conversations exist with my patients? 

NFP in its greatest practice is not just about a proven scientific method. It’s part of a greater respect for life and God’s role in creation. I’ve had contracepting couples switch to NFP solely based on the medical risks and benefits of contraception, in comparison to NFP. Did this change their philosophy regarding life’s dignity and God’s role in creation? Unfortunately, I somewhat doubt it. However, medically it certainly is safer than hormonal contraception. 

The beauty in NFP should include this appreciation of life and its dignity. One can keep true to this philosophy in practicing NFP, but not by contraception.  Unfortunately, it is possible to practice NFP and not hold dear the dignity of life.  If you do practice NFP to delay a pregnancy, prayerfully consider God’s role in planning His next child with you.  If you practice NFP in a contraceptive mentality, you have forgotten God’s role.  For everyone, I encourage learning a little basic science on this subject.  Ask questions.  Don’t accept a pill as the only option when the physician fails to fully inform. Ask about risks and alternatives.  More importantly, keep God and His plans close to your heart.  Respect all life. Do not thwart the transmission of life as God so beautifully designed.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Operation FALLOUT

" ... if you are comfortable in your home, everyone else will be too. That sense of authenticity is what gives a home its soul.”Interior designer Courtnay Daniels Haden from Elle Decor

Splintering spindles was the first step to making our home feel like we were breathing life back into her. There was a lot of sadness in her past and in the lives of the previous owners, but we are determined to make her smile once again. One step toward that was giving the kitchen a facelift.

It became necessary to paint once we splintered the spindles in the wall dividing the kitchen and dining room. Ben warned me that the fallout of removing the spindles would be like a snowball rolling downhill. And away we go...

Usually I have to tell the whole story and get you baited before showing the final product, but I couldn't wait this time! Now this is just cosmetic. Same countertops, same appliances, and same flooring. But it's still a huge breath of fresh air. Plans down the road will lead to bigger and better changes, but we just bought a house, so we're plum out of cash. 

Different angle. Like how I left the 'before' picture looking like a hurricane (typically I'd say tornado, but we live in Florida now) went through? Well, funny you should say that because one did tease us right in the middle of painting. I was positive it would sweep us away after I finished painting the last back breaking angle. 

And one more angle. 

When family and friends would ask what color I was painting my kitchen I braced myself to say, brown, dark brown. Most people did the stuttered, "Oh ... I can't picture it, but I'm sure it will be nice." I couldn't really picture it either, but I kept seeing photos of dark brown walls with cream everywhere else. No, none of those pictures were of kitchens, and yes, that made me nervous, but no, I didn't change my mind. I got worried after we painted the walls and Ben came in and said, "Why is it so dark in here?" Uh oh. 

Things got a lot better and brighter when I started painting the cabinets. First, we took down all the doors and pulled out the drawers. Then I painted just the fronts of the cabinets because this is a cosmetic upgrade, not a forever upgrade. We'll pull out all the stops next time. 

I sanded the fronts of the cabinets slightly before painting, but didn't dedicate any real time to it. I've read both ways of doing it online, so I think it depends on what your cabinets are made out of. Also, a helpful tip, put your cabinets in the same order as they are in the kitchen. Some of our doors would only go back on to their original locations. 

The hardest part for me was picking out new hardware. We have 46(!) cabinets in our kitchen! 46! That meant my budget for hardware was about $0.75 a handle. They don't make nice handles for $0.75. They make ridiculous handles for $80 if you are into 14k gold plated ones or the $95 ones I found bedazzled with Swarovzki crystals. And I thought we broke the budget when we splurged on utility pulls. They may not be dazzling, but I love them! Bay did, too. 

We still have a few small details we want to implement soon like curtains over the window and a backsplash. My dad is visiting soon and said he'd put one in for me (he lays tile for a living)! I told him he wasn't supposed to do that on his vacation, but he said he wanted to. Best dad ever! I'll be sure to post pictures of that project as well. 

Thoughts on how to make the black appliances not POP so much (and don't say buy new ones)? What do you think should be Ben and I's next big project? We're thinking a gut-it-and-make-it-new project :) Name a room in the house and we're probably going to breath a little soul into it as well.

Keep it pretty,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Only Prayer Request

Sometimes our lives burn down around us so spectacularly it’s hard to see God’s plan through the smoke and ash. We loose our ability to speak with God. But what is so breathtaking about faith is that I can pick up the prayer where my loved one’s left off.

Prayer is the only thing I have right now to help those who are suffering in my life. Luckily God put in my path because I stumbled upon one of their latest posts about the seven sorrows of Mary (it even has a craft for those of you with kids). I had heard of this meditation, but hadn’t ever really done it.

It’s said that if people say a Hail Mary for each of the seven sorrows, that a prayer would be answered. I NEEDED God to hear my prayer request and answer it; so I prayed each Hail Mary and reflected. A few particularly resonated with me and led me to a conclusion I didn’t expect.

The Flight to Egypt. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be told in a vision to flee to another country so my child would not be harmed. Now imagine that child was God and you had to keep Him safe. I imagined the pain of having to leave behind family with no means of communicating with them and no idea when you’d see them next. I also imagined how if Mary had been so accepting of God’s will that she bear His child, how accepting of this must she have been? What kind of courage did she draw from knowing His will was to keep His Son safe? As long as she obeyed, she must have known His plan would come to be.

Jesus dies on the cross. I imagined Mary looking up at her Son on the cross. I wondered if her strongest desire was to just kiss his forehead one last time. I wondered how badly she wanted to trade places with Him. I imagined if I were to trade places with her how strong the urge would be to scream at God and beg Him to end it. I’d want Him to change His plan because I didn’t understand it. But I know she didn’t do those things. Like her first yes and her obedience in each phase of Christ’s life, she watched and accepted God’s will for her Son.

Jesus is placed in the Tomb. If I had been in Mary’s position, I would have been waiting for the miracle. First I would have held my breath to see if they would really take Him into custody, then prayed that they didn’t crucify Him, and then begged that God would appear from Heaven and cradle His Son in His arms before He breathed His last. But closing the door on the tomb would have made it seem hopeless. It would have been the final straw if I had been Mary. I wouldn’t have known how to deal with the pain, the anguish, and the sense of betrayal. How could God let His Son, my Son, suffer and die? I have no doubt of Mary’s deep anguish at truly knowing that humanity murdered their God, but I also have no doubt that as the tomb closed, she held fast to the obedience of His will. She held fast because she loved her Son.

When the time came to voice my prayer request I realized what the intention was behind this meditation and all the others like it. It wasn’t that you pray seven Hail Mary’s and here’s your prize; it’s a spiritual journey. I came to the realization that the only request I had was that God’s will be done and that I, and those suffering around me, would have the obedience, the acceptance, and the love to understand that.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Turning Skepticism Into Openness

“The body, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine.” – Pope John Paul II, TOB 46:6

We used Up as an example in our talk because they are the cutest Disney couple ever!
A few weeks back the wonderful couple that taught us NFP asked us if we could step in to give the pre-cana talk on marriage and sexuality. They are part of the Air Force and were moving to a base in California. We of course jumped at the chance to help spread the word about NFP.

Pre-cana is the Catholic Church’s version of marriage prep. The marriage at Cana was where Christ performed his first public miracle when He turned water to wine at the urging of His mother. A fitting name for marriage prep, don’t you think? Today I felt like I was turning skepticism into openness, or at least attempting to.

After we agreed to give the talk, we went and sat in on one. It’s hard coming from an environment that is so pro-NFP to one that is literally hostile to the idea. Our teaching couple got up there and shared their hearts out, but mostly what they got in return were closed minds and skeptic hearts. I was a little terrified at what we were going to face when it came our turn.

I’m an editor by trade, but I don’t always take criticism well. I can dish it out, but I can’t take it. I know, total hypocrisy, but that’s the honest truth, and I’m working on it (just don’t go editing this now). At the end of the pre-cana session the couples listening get to give us feedback. I think some of the people need a new definition of feedback. Feedback should be constructive, not destructive.  But, there were a few shining, hopeful statements in the bunch, which is ultimately what we are after. Maybe this is God’s way of making me better at taking criticism?

Anyway today we gave our first pre-cana talk! I literally worked on it every evening for the past week because I wanted to appeal to both those couples open to NFP and those using contraceptives. To do that, we used the quote at the top as the basis for our talk. We talked about how ultimately this talk wasn’t about sex; it was about respect of your body, your spouse’s body, and the body of your marriage when you become one flesh in the sacrament (Ephesians 5:28-31). I hope to have a blog post about more on that later.

Anyway, there were only five couples this time. A really small class, but we were thankful for that since this was our first go at it. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, our notes weren’t visible on the screen that showed our PPT slides. So we had to wing it a little bit. I think it helped, but it did run us over our time about 15 minutes. Oops. The couple that hosts the pre-cana came up to us afterward though and said they would increase our time allotted in the future because they loved the points we were making. Yeah!! Sorry future pre-cana people!

The highlight of all of this is that out of the five couples, two couples said they were really interested in taking the class and would be looking us or another local teacher up in the near future! Another couple said they would be looking into adoption since we spoke about infertility issues and the amazing options out there for couples that are loving and morally sound. Not sure what the thoughts of the other two couples were, but we should get our evaluations soon … finger-crossed!

This will probably be a never-ending process of modifying our talk for pre-cana, so if you have any thoughts or suggestions for us about what would appeal to you if you were in the seats, leave me a comment. Ben and I would greatly appreciate it!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Operation SPLINTER SPINDLES Complete

The de-spindling in pictures.

Here is how we began this process, with spindles that dated the house even more so than the wallpaper.

The spindles, along with their brethren trim, rest on a couch from their era. Ah the '80s. The garage may also need an update in the future, you think?

Look new spindles! Well that's what it felt like when my husband was framing up the gaping hole left in the wall after my debilitating need to remove spindles was quenched. We were lucky there was a decent frame in the rest of the wall that our new frame could attach to.

The next steps were to fill in the holes with drywall, tape the edges, and then putty like crazy! I puttied, sanded, reputtied, and resanded for what felt like days. I wanted it perfect. And we got close.

This was our end result ... after we hired someone to come help us perfect our putty job. The wall itself was a bit too 'wavy' for lack of a better word. We love DIY, but sometimes a professional is necessary. 
After we painted, it was time for trim. Look at that helpful puppy! The base board was relatively easy. First we painted it and then we started shaving off piece by piece until they each fit perfectly. I was lucky Ben was patient because I would have just measured to what I thought was the perfect fit and CHOP! He measured to what he thought would fit and then shaved off a little less. It took a few tries per board, but it came out beautifully.

We didn't replace the trim around the recessed part of the ceiling, but I did paint it. Slowly. But not as slowly as it took to put up the crown molding.

Crown molding looks beautiful, but I would have to seriously weigh the benefits with the amount of effort that went into to putting it up. In the dining room, I'd do it again. I love it so much!

Bay feels safe with Ben. Ben had a nail gun. Bay was scared of the nail gun, but still felt safer right next Ben and therefore the nail gun. Silly girl!

So this is what it looked like when we moved in. This is your before picture.

This is the after picture! Still needs a few more things on the walls, but at least there isn't wallpaper on the walls! We also have to paint and redo the trim in the living room, but one project at a time!

As you can see, we also replaced the old light fixture with one I love! We also put up some curtains to replace the blinds that were held up with bandaids (yes bandaids), added a few pictures, and replaced the gold vent with one that blends in with the ceiling (why you want an air vent that draws attention is beyond me). Someday we will replace the floor and sliding door, but for now we're happy with the final result.